Assessing Houston’s ‘Climate Abandonment Areas’

Most of the census tracts designated at high risk of flooding are in less affluent neighborhoods.

1 minute read

February 7, 2024, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Flooded street in Houston, Texas.

Casey E Martin / Adobe Stock

A report from First Street Foundation highlights the parts of Houston designated as “climate abandonment areas,” census tracts that households are leaving in part due to climate change-related flood risk. These households are not being replaced by new incoming residents. Roy Kent describes the report in the Kinder Institute for Urban Research’s Urban Edge, which notes that 9 percent of Harris County census tracts are abandonment areas. 

Climate abandonment areas include the cost of a home based on its location along with the added costs associated with higher rates for homeowners and flood insurance policies. Higher costs often drive some homeowners out of the neighborhood to nearby areas with lower insurance rates due to a lower flood chance.

According to the report, “climate abandonment areas of Houston are predominately in less affluent neighborhoods with older infrastructure spread across the city but generally located inside the 610 Loop.”

Jeremy Porter, head of climate implications research at First Street, says “The downstream implications of this are massive and impact property values, neighborhood composition and commercial viability both positively and negatively.”

The report notes that Texas has faced the highest disaster recovery costs of all states, with over $300 billion in damage from tropical storms and hurricanes, droughts, and winter storms since 1980.


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